Animated Short Reviews, Animated Shorts, Reviews

My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Mirror Magic Review


It’s time to look at the big climax to the trilogy! The Mane 7 have gone to the theater to see how the film went. Naturally it was quite good, possibly the best film they ever saw. The heroes are pretty nice people so they don’t want to make a big deal of this, but then they see that Juniper is working here and decide to pay her a visit. After trying to sabotage the film, Juniper was fired and forced to work as a sweeper at the theater. The Mane 7 remind her of this and let her know that it’s what she deserves. Juniper decides to get back at the heroes and finds a mirror. With it she can throw people into other dimensions and even finish her chores quicker. She slowly begins to use this mirror more and more until she is completely hooked on it. Now she does not want to ever turn away from it. Why should she when this grants her super abilities?

Sunset realizes that she’s going to need pony power for this one and calls up Starlight Glimmer. Together they can succeed where the Equestria Girls failed. Juniper may have magical abilities, but the heroes have the power of friendship on their side! The big battle between good and evil starts here and it will definitely ensure that you never look at the characters the same way again. It was nice to see Juniper get a super form here as the other specials had been pretty down to Earth. Seeing the characters go cosmic again was definitely a blast.

Meanwhile, Juniper is a pretty fun villain here like in the other special. I do think that it’s basically impossible to sympathize with her at all. Considering how many crimes she committed in the last special, you’d think that she would be incredibly grateful to be working anywhere right? Instead she spends this time griping the whole while. She’s clearly very bitter about everything and hasn’t learned a thing in her exile. By the end we find out that she just wanted friends, but I’m not sure that I buy this. There was certainly no indication that this was the case until the very end. I think the heroes basically tricked her into believing that this was the case.

I do think Starlight Glimmer was pretty out of character here though. This seems to be the case a lot of the time when the Ponies show up in Equestria Girls though. Starlight acts like a complete beginner here. She isn’t very powerful or confident which isn’t like her. She gives some advice here and there, but spends most of the time just staying in the background. She could have been cut out of the film and nothing would have changed. That’s my main problem with the whole thing. Starlight should have been brought in to have a big fight with Juniper or something. Otherwise why even show up? Still, at least we finally got the big meeting between the two characters even if it was handled poorly.

All told, this trilogy ended on a pretty high note. The writing was good and the special’s short length really allows for the action to start up right away. I still say that Starlight was misused here, but you can’t win them all I suppose. The mirror was a good piece of tech so hopefully it shows up again. It could easily be used for a bunch of different plots which would certainly be fun.

Overall,, I have finally finished all of the Magic specials. With this I am one step closer to catching up with the MLP series. That will certainly be a pretty big milestone. If you haven’t seen these specials yet then you should do so. All 3 of them combined are barely an hour so you really can’t go wrong there. The low key best character of this is probably still Juniper’s uncle. the guy really did his best to help her turn over a new leaf. It’s just a shame that she persisted in staying with the darkness. At least now that she’s friends with the MLP characters she’ll have positive influences. (Provided they remember to check up on her from time to time)

Overall 7/10

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Animated Short Reviews, Animated Shorts, Reviews

My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Movie Magic Review


It’s time to look at the next installment in the Magic trilogy. The heroes have arrived on the set of a Daring Do movie and are looking forward to seeing it be made first hand. As Rainbow Dash is a big fan she is determined to help the crew do it right. Unfortunately a ghost has been scaring people off the set and now even the props for the movie have vanished. Without those the movie will have to be put on indefinite hold. Dash can’t have that and so she decides that the group will find this ghost. She even brought along her super speed amulet so she can take this villain down a few pegs. Still, will that be enough to defeat an actual ghost?

This really plays out like a classic Scooby Doo film. It’s pretty neat to see how the MLP crew would handle such a task. Of course, it is a bit obvious who the culprit is from the start. I think the one area where the special made a mistake is in only having a small cast around. From those characters only 2 of them feel like actual suspects. You have a spoiled actress who keeps saying that she wants out of this film and then you have a movie attendant who really loves being in the film business. Hmmmm, who’s the likely culprit? Well, the actress would be the obvious guess since she doesn’t like the movie, but through that you know who is actually guilty. Still, even if you know who it is the actual mystery is still pretty fun.

I do think it was a bit of a stretch how the villain outran Rainbow Dash though and then captured her. Rainbow Dash isn’t a normal human like the rest of these characters, she has actual super speed? The whole thing felt like plot hax to be honest. Still, it did add a little sense of danger which is always good though. The team’s plan to capture the villain was also pretty well thought out. It just goes to show that the ponies have brainpower as well as brawn.

The ending was handled pretty well as the villain starts to go through the motions of pretending to turn over a new leaf and all of that. The director doesn’t buy into it and wants the person off the set. This time the culprit basically gets off with a slap on the wrist, but I guess it makes sense since this character is likely still a minor and as such can’t do a whole lot of hard time anyway. She’s banned from the set and that’s really all you could ask for.

From what we saw it looks like the Daring Do film will be a riveting success. I was half expecting the actual Daring Do to show up, but I guess she could have ended up stealing the show. Surprisingly there aren’t any real songs here, but I suppose maybe that would have been out of place with the whole mystery angle going on. I’d say that the first special beat this one as a result, but Movie Magic certainly did have a little more danger and suspense in the plot so it was pretty close. There’s not much to say about the graphics as they are effectively the same as in the first special.

Overall, Movie Magic is a good follow up to the first special. The main characters are a pretty close knit team by this point so it’s nice to see them making plans and such to catch the enemy. The villain was also fairly memorable and made for a good antagonist. I’ll talk more about her in the final special review. The 2nd special in a trilogy is usually more for set up than anything else and that’s exactly the case here. The third special is where everything finally connects and we learn who is really pulling the strings here. Lets just say that everything has been leading up to this moment.

Overall 7/10

Animated Short Reviews, Animated Shorts, Reviews

My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Dance Magic Review


It’s time to look at the first of 3 Equestria Girl shorts. Initially I was going to review the 3 specials as one post as some sites seem to list it as season 1 episodes 1-3, but at the same time it’s hard to find an actual title for what that series would be. It sort of tows the line between being 3 separate specials and a quick miniseries. To make it simple I figured I would just treat it as 3 quick specials. As such these reviews will be a bit smaller since it’s like reviewing an episode.

In this special, the Mane 7 are trying to earn some money to repair Camp Everfree after the events of the film. Unfortunately things are not going very well on this front. The group has not made a lot of money and the deadline is almost here. That’s when Rarity has the idea of entering a Dance competition where the grand prize would give them all the money they need. The risk is that the entry fee will clean them out so they either win it all or lose everything. The rest of the MLP members reluctantly agree to this. Rarity is confident that they will win, but another wrinkle is thrown into the plan when a group of rival classmates steal Rarity’s idea for the show. With only minutes remaining, can Rarity think of a way to still claim first place?

This plot has been used before in the main series where some characters stole Rarity’s ideas as well. As she has the mark of generosity that makes her a very easy target for hooligans like this. It can be a bit annoying to see Rarity so oblivious, but this is why she isn’t the leader of the team. You can bet that this wouldn’t have worked on Sunset Shimmer or Starlight Glimmer. It’s a good conflict here as the heroes can naturally go and beat these kids up with their super powers or they can make the heroic call and let them be. I’d at least report them, but it’s your word vs theirs which makes things fishy.

Alas, this special isn’t really about big conflicts and such. The heroes decide to help the bullies out anyway since they were so desperate. It turns out that these students weren’t so bad after all and all of that. It’s a bit hard to swallow of course, but I suppose it is what it is. The Mane 7 have always been pretty good at forgiving people so it’s not exactly surprising that it would play out this way. I do think Sunset was ready to fight if necessary though which is why she’s such a good character.

This was a good way to start off the trilogy as we got some good musical beats during the dances. The special had a lot of energy throughout and had good writing. The animation looks pretty similar to the movies although naturally it’s not quite as detailed. It’s bright and colorful which is the important thing. I’d compare the animation to Rescue Bots or something of that nature. It won’t be winning any awards, but it’s not bad either.

From the villains, Sugarcoat is annoying though. She’s not grateful in the slightest and is quick to mock the heroes even once they are all on the same side. She seems to think that she is a little better than everyone else and her arrogance is unwarranted. Look, I’m all for arrogant characters, but if you just got saved by someone in this contest you probably shouldn’t be talking tough for a while. The others may have also started out as villains, but at least they knew to stay quiet once the Mane 7 had pity on them.

Overall, Dance Magic shows that it’s good to be kind, but you also have to be ready for all of the cheaters in the world. They aren’t going to just let you get past without a fight. It’s one thing to help someone out if they seem nervous, but if you’re in a competition you shouldn’t show off your routine before you have it securely patented and registered. Rarity taught us these valuable life lessons. If you haven’t seen this special yet then I’d recommend changing that. It’s pretty fun and easily works as an episode in the series.

Overall 7/10

Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Maze Runner: The Death Cure Review


It’s been quite a while since I saw the Scorch Trials but I knew that someday I would finish this series. That time is now and the Death Cure actually isn’t a bad film. For the most part it’s actually pretty solid but ends up losing a lot of steam by the time it reaches the ending. There really isn’t much of humanity left to save either.

The film starts with an almost humorous action scene where the main characters steal an entire train, knock out all of the guards and then fly out of there. They are lucky that the guards can’t shoot straight or that they had no cameras active to see the obvious traps that were set out for them. This sort of plot hax will be around for a while so now is a good time to get used to it. The characters have now freed over 100 kids and are ready to sail off to a better tomorrow. The problem is that one of their friends from the first film is still captured. Thomas, Newt, and Frypan head off to find him before also being joined by Jorge and Brenda. They will have to break into the enemy stronghold to free him and will have to risk everything one last time. Can they do it?

There is certainly a lot of action here. We have constant gun fights and miscellaneous explosions occurring off screen. There is even a hand to hand fight near the end. Naturally these kids aren’t exactly master martial arts so it’s really just both sides throwing a lot of punches as opposed to a lot of crispy choreography. The climax is really just one large war zone as the characters try to make it out in one piece.

The pacing isn’t bad either as things tend to move quickly. The heroes are rarely given a chance to rest and so the film is moving a lot as well. I can’t say the writing was all that good though as characters constantly sound like they are in a horror movie with all the needless yelling. The character cast also isn’t amazing and I had some issues with the ending. To explain why the ending is no ot that good without spoilers is a little tricky, but here goes. The whole film series is really about choosing a side. Is the government right for sacrificing around 50 kids to save the human population or should the kids simply escape but also soon humanity along with them? Well the choice was taken out of your hands early on as the government is unnecessarily cruel the whole time. They even go so far as to attempt to destroy one of the kids when harnessing his blood slowly would have been safer and could have saved more people. It’s also worth noting that their cures keep failing so they are gambling the kids lives on just a hunch. Then in the ending we basically realize that all hope is lost. Unless there is yet another lost city in the middle of nowhere but that would be super convenient. It means that the whole trilogy was ultimately pointless for most of the human race.

As I mentioned earlier there is also quite a lot of plot hax to be found here. The villains constantly seem to be on the losing side when they should have this in the bag. The amount of times they yell “freeze” is almost funny because the heroes absolutely never listen and it always results in the villains losing once again. The scene where the bus is surrounded is the worst part as they just watch one of the characters clip it to a construction crane and lift the bus out of there. They probably should have fired their guns.

Thomas is the main character and he is definitely no good. He is said to be a very forgiving character multiple times in the film to the point where he is ready to quickly forgive Teresa after she betrayed the heroes and took a role in torturing one of his friends. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that he forgives everyone but Thomas isn’t consistent about that. We’ve also got a kid who was mind controlled and forced into destroying another kid. The guy seemingly died but now he has returned and Thomas absolutely won’t forgive him. So really, it’s not that he is a forgiving person by nature, he just likes Teresa so he is willing to overlook her faults. He doesn’t handle the romance situation very well either and tends to not make very good commands as the leader. He’s just not a guy that you would want to follow into battle. Especially since he is always admitting that he has no idea what they are even doing.

Then we have Teresa who does not regret turning evil. That should mean she will be portrayed as a villain right? Well surprisingly the film actually tries to make her a little sympathetic with the classic the Ends Justify the Means line of thinking. That didn’t fly back in the day and it still doesn’t. She is on the wrong side and the film did a poor job of trying to show her switch sides or even making her cause look legitimate. As such the character was just pretty bad the whole time. The same goes for her Boss who spends the first two films capturing the kids and putting them in painful experiments. Now she is finally having second thoughts and it’s just way too late for that.

The only good villain is the main chief of security, Janson. He is sticking to his guns literally in this film as he shots quite a few characters and also knows how to fight. I mean, he’s not a great fighter as he can barely go even with Thomas but I suppose it’s a start at the very least. Janson also knows when it’s time to pull back and just win with a gun instead. His demise seems a little hard to buy since he would have known the room better than anyone and what it would take to break the glass though.

Newt was a solid character. He always does his best to support Thomas while also calling him out when the lead starts to act fishy. He has been infected for a while but manages to keep it quiet so as not to distract from the mission. Newt does have his typical blow up moment at Thomas which comes off as rather forced but that’s really his only iffy scene. Then we have the ex bully who still calls Thomas greeny. Honestly I barely remember the character at all so he may as well be a new character in this one. He is the commander of the resistance (How’d that happen?) aside from one old man who is consulted at times. He doesn’t tend to panic as much as the others and saves the leads quite a few times so at the very least he was really good in this film. More prepared than the others at the very least.

One scene that will really stick with you is when the main characters walk into a dark tunnel and are basically unarmed. Even if there wasn’t an army of zombies down there, what could they have possibly done against the villains in such a state? You have to bring a ton of ammo at the very least or some kind of plan. The heroes had neither and would have been doomed several times if they hadn’t kept getting saved. The whole film you are reminded of this as the heroes are just out of their depth for the majority of the movie.

Overall, The Death Cure isn’t a bad action film. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and the series ends on a fairly good note. The ending is a little more hopeless than I would have liked and a certain death didn’t really need to happen since things were so bad already. It also didn’t help Thomas much either since at the very end he writes someone’s name down which basically proves his allegiance once more. If you want to see a film with a lot of action scenes then this is the place to go, but don’t expect it to be the kind of film that you will never forget.

Overall 6/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Cars 3 Review


It’s time to take a look at the end of the trilogy. Cars had a good run as there aren’t too many Pixar films that have gotten two sequels. That being said, while the final installment is pretty solid, I’d still say that the original Cars is the best one. This film just had one thing that went against it, but it was a fairly big thing, the ending.

The film starts off with Lightning McQueen in a big race. He is at the head of the pack as per usual but then he is passed by Storm, a new kid on the block. The kid claims that he used to look up to Lightning, but that the main character is just too old to compete nowadays. He throws a lot of age related burns Lightning’s way and the lead pushes himself too hard as he tries to catch up and ends up getting into an accident. This leads him to stay out of the races for a few months, but nothing can keep Lightning down for very long. He decides to get back into the races and to do that he will have to use the latest training tech. His sponsors were bought out by a millionaire who loves the high tech stuff, but he may not be quite as nice as the older guys. At the end of the day, Lightning is going to have to prove that he has what it takes to get back on the track and claim victory.

The theme of the main character getting old and being surpassed by new talent is certainly a tried and true one. Rocky is certainly well known for doing it. We even get a lot of training for Lightning as he tries to get better although the film fumbles this part a little. Lightning’s personal trainer, Cruz decides to follow him and she doesn’t believe that he has what it takes to go all the way. As such, Lightning spends most of his time helping her out instead of actually training. He doesn’t get much faster than he was so in a way old and actually ended up winning this time. Lightning looks good during the final race but he doesn’t end up winning so that’s too bad. It’s not like he got a clean win in the first film either but at least it was obvious he was going to win and the crowd reinforced this. In this film Lightning was only projected to make it to the top 10 before he tagged in Cruz. To be clear, the point of this part of the film is that Lightning couldn’t train as much as he wanted too so that was the film’s intention. I just say they fumbled the ball because the plot took a different turn than I had been hoping for. I wanted the hype comeback story where Lightning wins and then I’d be fine with him retiring. Having him put it all on the line one last time would have been exciting. Maybe Lightning would have been able to take 1st or maybe not. We’ll just never know. As the ending played I thought that Lightning and the trainer would both be competing but under different teams. That would have been neat.

The animation is as solid as ever. The film’s definitely does a great job with all of the car designs and I still crack up at their facial expressions. Throw in the grins and you are constantly entertained. The racing scenes look really nice and the music is also pretty good. The film has an actual soundtrack which is nice. Cars 3 definitely did a good job on all the technical levels. Even the way everyone says “Lightning McQueen” is a lot of fun. I don’t know why but they always seem to taking a jab at him with the way they stretch out his name but maybe I am overthinking it.

As expected the writing is also really good and is a considerable upgrade from the last film. It is just really great to have Lightning back as the lead. He does a great job of looking like the seasoned veteran you would expect him to be at this point. The mind games don’t really work on him at this point and he doesn’t take his training for granted. Even his depression phase was quite small and he snapped out of it very quickly. I do think it makes the initial teaser very misleading as the crash wasn’t nearly as bad as it implied, but it was a good misdirect. After all, the crash still did happen so it certainly wasn’t false advertising. It’s probably safe to say at this point that Lightning is one of Pixar’s best leads.

The supporting cast is solid as well. They brought back Lightning’s rival from the first film and he definitely does not like Lightning any more than he used to. In fact I’d say his aggression has only increased with age and he takes numerous shots at McQueen whenever he is on the air. His segments are definitely a lot of fun and certainly is a highlight of the film. What you have to respect the most about this guy is that he isn’t trying to put on some kind of act. He is straight forward about how he doesn’t like Lightning and I dare say that he is the most enjoyable character in the film. It just doesn’t get better than this guy.

The new villain is also pretty solid. Storm thinks that the younger cars are the ones who should be on top of the circuit and is always throwing insults at Lightning based on his age. He has a great design and his speed is certainly the real deal. The scene where he is training and passes a hologram of Lightning is a lot of fun as well. Jackson is arrogant and extremely confident. Those are definitely qualities that you always want in a villain and he pulls them off very well. We have yet to have a bad enemy racer for Lightning which is pretty impressive. All 3 opponents were fun villains. At least this one doesn’t play dirty til the end so he did win all of his races with skill.

Finally we have Cruz. I’m afraid that her character was a bit of a miss since the movie tries to portray her as a prodigy with the oblivious nature of Mater. This isn’t a good combo for many reasons, one of which is that these character traits really clash. You can’t be someone who really knows what to do on the track and also not have any real common sense for new roads. When she heads to the beach for the first time she has absolutely no idea how to drive. Cruz can’t turn and falls in every puddle. She is exaggeratedly bad at being a racer despite earlier scenes making a point of showing that she was great at the simulator. Then she is supposed to be a great trainer who is great at helping any car get to the next level. She individualized the training for each car based on which obstacles they had which prevented them from getting to the next level. Yet, she could not do the same for Lightning and instead seems to be trying to sabotage his chances of being ready for the race. Perhaps the angle that the film was going for was that she was such a big fan of Lightning that she really did think he was too old and didn’t want him to tarnish his legacy. That theory is a bit of a stretch though and either way it doesn’t really help her case. The part of her character that had the most potential was her dream of driving but even that is a little murky.

When this plot was first introduced I figured that they were going to say that Sue wasn’t able to be a racer because girls weren’t allowed at the time or in her district. It would have been very disappointing for her and would have been a legitimate reason for her to have hung up the tires in place of being a coach. Instead, she was simply intimidated by the cars and quickly gave up. It’s hard to be sympathetic to her plight because it sounds like she never even gave it a second go. She couldn’t have been all that excited to be a racer if she gave up on her goal so quickly. At least for me, this twist weakened her story.

I should wrap up this section or it’ll start to be as long as the rest of the review! This is just my explanation for why her character was ruined out of the gate. Her personality and what we knew of the character completely clash with each other. She appears to be smart and competent in some scenes and not so much in others. You’d think that the film switched writers midway or at least made some big changes to he character. As for the other supporting characters, they were okay. We got a group of older cars who help Lightning get ready for the race with some motivation and a track for him to ride on. They don’t appear too much of get much of a role, but they seemed like solid characters. The other cars back home got their cameos in as well.

The only relatively weak part of the film is when the gang heads over to the underground racing arena where they fight a Magic School Bus homage. It’s not so much that this is a bad scene but it basically feels like filler and I didn’t care for any of the characters there. This was also during the phase where Cruz was pretty annoying. I suppose it was a good way of showing that Lightning is proficient in all kinds of races, but that probably could have been handled better.

Overall, Cars 3 is a good way to end the trilogy. If the story does end here, it’s not such a bad way to end off. Lightning still should have won the race and that would have solidified this as a great film and the best in the trilogy, but I suppose you can’t win them all. If you’re looking for a fun racing film with a good lead then you have come to the right place. What really makes Cars 3 so solid is the fact that the writing is certainly on point. It’s an enjoyable film even when not much is happening because the dialogue is good. That being said, the pacing is pretty quick for the most part. I would definitely recommend this film. It’s an all around solid movie.

Overall 7/10

7 Star TV Shows, Reviews, TV Show Reviews, TV Shows

Transformers: Combiner Wars Review

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It’s time to look at the recent online miniseries that came out. Unfortunately, it would be taking the old “5 minute episodes” tactic that rarely ever works out well. The main difference between this one and Pokemon Generations is that the episodes do combine to tell one self contained story. It does have a bit of a cliffhanger to lead into the next part of the trilogy though. It’s a pretty solid mini show that could have certainly benefited from having normal length episodes instead of mini ones, but was fairly decent for its limitations.

The plot takes place in the far future, which is a nice change of pace since most of the shows and movies all take place during the war between the Autobots and Decepticons. The comics have long since passed this part in history, but the shows and movies don’t seem to ever want to leave it. I guess it makes sense since that era had a lot of interesting characters and battles to look at, but the future arcs can be a blast too. Case in point, the plot in this series is actually very interesting and epic. The series itself just fails to completely utilize it.

Both sides are now working together since there aren’t Decepticons and Autobots anymore. Rodimus Prime, Starscream, and The Mistress of Flame are the three rulers now. They use Combiners to take any pockets of villain resistance left. The world still isn’t at peace and it probably never will be, but the situation isn’t half bad at this point. Unfortunately, that’s when the heroes get the bright idea to try and use a super special item to mind control all of the Combiners to have them serve as a personal army. This will take away their autonomy and it’ll serve as the ultimate counter to evil. How can this fail? Rodimus half heartedly advises against it, but is then for it later on. All three of the members go back and forth on the issue until someone ensures that the device is used. It’s like they always say, if you have a weapon, that means you intend to use it at some point.

Windblade knows about what is going on so she recruits Optimus Prime to help her end this. She wants to destroy the device and Prime is in agreement, although he isn’t thrilled about being called back into action. He’s in retirement and nobody likes him even though he fought for peace for many centuries. People blame him for the war and that just goes to show that the average Cybertronian isn’t much smarter than the average human. I can’t believe that Prime of all people would be turned into an outcast after the many sacrifices that he made for justice. It’s pretty unreal. Prime also realizes that the two of them against an army of combiners may be a bit unrealistic so they call in Megatron. Megatron’s enjoying his retirement at a Colosseum, but he’s certainly happy to help if it means messing up Starscream and the others.

Seeing Optimus Prime and Megatron team up was probably the biggest hype moment of the mini series. Unfortunately, there really weren’t any villains for them to fight by that point. They got to shoot at the giant Starscream and at a few Combiners, but I would have liked more of a tangible threat for them to be honest. The back and forth between the two rivals was always good though and we saw their battle experience first hand. You always get the sense that Megatron and Prime are head and shoulders above the rest of the robots. Prime’s retirement was definitely pretty iffy if you ask me and seemed like another hero giving up the Luke Skywalker way. It’s a stretch to imagine Prime just deciding to give up and let others wield the torch, but at least that won’t be a problem for the next two parts of the trilogy. Megatron was definitely in character the whole time though and I can definitely see him being a big villain again someday.

Rodimus Prime didn’t look all that smart though. I don’t know how everyone just decided that it would be a good idea to let Starscream on the tribunal. If you ask me…that’s just not a smart move. Even if he claims that he’s changed….it’s Starscream that we’re talking about. He’s the shadiest Decepticon of them all. Starscream’s definitely pretty solid though. He has a good plan and considered all of the angles. You definitely can’t say that he’s not one of the smartest bots out there.

Windblade was basically the main character and she was really good. It’s nice to see her as a hardcore assassin. Robots in Disguise tried to make her really cool as well and she is decent in that show, but this one goes a little more all out. She’ll remind you of Arcee from the Transformer comics. Windblade gets the job done and while she should not have won her fight against the Combiner, (Get ready for a lot of plot hax, but this show is full of that so you won’t be surprised by the end) Windblade is definitely a character who is easy to root for and I would certainly say that she is one of the better Transformers overall.

As expected, the characters and the plot are good. Now, where did the series fail? Well, the 5 minute episodes really ensure that the show can’t do much. Now only are the episodes only around 5 minutes long, but they really waste time. One episode will have someone flying for about a minute or another will just have people talking about nothing really important for a while. I feel like the show was trying to show off its animation, but since the graphics weren’t really anything to write home about…it didn’t work. Plus, time was a big factor here so the show needed to take it into consideration.

The graphics aren’t bad though and despite getting a lot of heat, I dare say that they even look great. They have the style of a PS2 game, but with modernized graphics. The colors really stand out and since it is night time for most of the series, the contrasts make for really good visuals. The energy attacks all look sharp as well and these are graphics that I grew up with to the extent where the designs look solid. It’s hard to describe, but the robots actually look strong and menacing instead of skinny and more unassuming. It can’t hold its own to a modern hand drawn anime or anything like that, but the CGI is really good. I can’t say that I really remember the soundtrack all that well though. It’s very forgettable and it’s the kind of fare that works well while you’re in the moment, but just barely. It covers its bases and that’s about it.

Combiner Wars does end on a really epic note though. The cliff hanger for part 2 is really intense since aliens may finally be showing up to make a move. That’s one aspect of Transformers that was never handled too well. Aliens showing up could be really awesome, but usually their designs aren’t great or they just don’t get to do much. A proper Transformers vs Aliens plot for the sequel could definitely be really cool. It would certainly make for a better fight than Prime and friends against Cosmic Giant. The final fight is a little underwhelming because the villain can barely move and the heroes can’t hurt him, which leads to an unfortunate stale mate. Some good visuals make it in there, but that’s about all that you can say for it.
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Overall, Transformers: Combiner Wars is a pretty fun little show. Just treat it as a 30 minute OVA and it works well. The animation is solid and the fight scenes are a lot of fun aside from the last one. The plot is very engaging and the main character cast of Windblade, Prime, and Megatron is a good trio. It will also remind you of just how good the show could have been had it been full length though. Despite it being a series about Combiners, we didn’t get to see them do all that much here. There was simply no time since the series had to try and fit everybody in with the limited length. Hopefully the next part will either have more episodes or they will be able to extend the length of each episode. I think that would do wonders for the show. Still, I recommend it if you’re interested in the future timeline of Transformers, which is rarely explored.

Overall 7/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Manga Dogs Review

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It is time to look at a manga trilogy that certainly didn’t last very long. The concept was intriguing, but I’m afraid that the execution left a lot to be desired. It all comes down to the format, which I shall delve into as the review goes on. I hadn’t read a Shojo title that was this down to Earth for a while so that was neat. It may not be the greatest experience or one that will be very memorable, but the series gave us its all!

The series revolves around a Jump author who is named Kanna. She has actually got a manga series in Weekly Shonen Jump, which is impressive. Unfortunately, it is near the bottom of the rankings every week so the series is very close to being cancelled. Balancing out her school life with her manga duties is no easy feat. Things get worse when she stumbles into a manga group where the other 3 members have no idea on how to create a real manga. This is going to be a long year all right!

Again, it’s a superb great good concept, but the format doesn’t work for me. The series is just a lot of really short stories/chapters that are combined into the volumes. While there is continuity, this means that it is practically a 4 koma series. It is different, but not by much and that style is still not my favorite. The heroes can have loads of adventures, but they are all over as soon as they have begun. Normal sized chapters would have really done wonders for the series, but it wouldn’t have saved it.

Another issue with the series is that the jokes are extremely limited. The author reuses the same gags over and over again. It can become very repetitive and I would argue that it wasn’t even funny the first time. Each character has their own quirk, which I’ll get into. Suffice it to say, Kanna may be having troubles with her manga, but the series that she is a part of is in greater trouble of failing. I should still mention some of the gags. A main one is that the three friends will decide that today is the day that they will seriously start to draw manga…and then they’ll give up. Rinse and repeat for just about every chapter. Throw in Kanna insulting them and you’ve got the formula down. Kanna is also constantly shocked by the plans of the three friends even though she should be immune to that by the end.

We’ll start off with Kanna. Her friends embarrass her and whenever she tries to insult them, they take it as a compliment. She also tends to almost fall for them on several occasions and this leads to some stressful situations. The worst trait of hers is probably that she constantly seems to think about romance, but then decides that a “2D guy” who is just right for her will never show up. So, she retreats into anime land, which is an unfortunate stereo type. If Kanna was actually very good at drawing manga things would be a little different, but her series is failing because she listened to her editor too much. Naturally, her author is very effeminate and always gives her advice for what he wants in the manga, even though the readers don’t want this.

The first friend is Fumio. He’s probably called something else by his friends since the name doesn’t strike a bell. I’ll just use his stage name, Prince. Prince wants to be a great manga author or so he claims, but he really just likes to mess around. Actually working on his manga is simply too difficult for the Prince and then he’ll just give up until the next chapter. He’s still better than Fujio though. Fujio has glasses so he is the brainiac of the group, but he’s not actually that smart. He merely acts smart and he’s just as bad at drawing manga as the rest of the characters. He likes to think of elaborate plans, but they’re too elaborate so he can never finish the first page. Even he is better than Shota though. Shota is a small kid who always comes up with devious plans, but they’re all talk. There’s not much too him though and he’s just like the other two friends. Another supporting character joins the crew after the first volume, but he doesn’t contribute all that much to the plot.

As you can see, the characters is one of the big areas that the series could not handle. I didn’t end up liking anyone. The old lady who decided to be the manga group’s mentor was decent as she kept things real. Beyond that, most of the characters are fairly generic or simply unlikable like the main ones. It’s too bad since it should usually be easy to make the main characters likable. That being said, it can be tricky in a comedy like this one, but it is still achievable. I would certainly expect at least one of the big characters to be cool.

The art for the series looks good so that is definitely a positive for the series. This is good as it would have been ironic if the series actually had bad art. Seriously, the series would have never lived this down and I would have been grinning from start to finish! The art is very clear so it is easy to read each page and that makes each volume go by very quickly.

The review likely sounds very negative, but the manga wasn’t terrible. It was under average to be sure and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but the series had its good moments. We even got a sense of danger for a minute or two as Kanna was kidnapped at one point. The problem is that this still can’t be taken seriously as the kidnapper is pretty cheap. Moreover, Manga Dogs should have simply taken a different route with the plot. Introducing a rival to keep Kanna on her toes would have been a nice start and we should have gotten some drawing competitions. The series may be a comedy, but that doesn’t meant that it shouldn’t have a plot. All good comedies still have some kind of plot going and it makes the series more engaging. It makes you wonder whether the author ever thought that the series would last for very long.

Overall, Manga Dogs didn’t do too well. The main reasons why it lost out were the unlikable characters and the limited gags. If you are going to make a successful comedy series, you need to have charismatic characters or a long list of jokes at the ready. You can’t keep using the same ones over and over again if you want readers to stay interested in the series. It was just hard to really get connected to the plot. The art was good, which gave Manga Dogs a chance to do something with itself. As I mentioned earlier, just adding in a rival or some excitement would have been nice. Maybe seeing more of Shonen Jump and what the other authors think of Kanna. Instead, the author focuses on the friends and their quirks, which didn’t work for me. It got repetitive after the first volume so you can imagine how bad it would have gotten if this had been more of a long running series. Instead of checking this title out, I recommend just reading Bakuman. It is like this one, but executed to perfection. Bakuman is still the most engaging non action manga of all time and it is a series that you should pick up ASAP! Manga Dogs will be a distant memory by the end!

Overall 4/10

7 Star Games

The Sly Collection Review

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This is a fairly large game time wise and it’s also a memorable one. It was the final game that I got to complete on the old PS3 (Game 1) and then I finally got to go back to it on the newer one. Three whole video games in a single package is a very good deal and the price was right. I enjoy the Ratchet and Clank series as well as the Jak titles so I was sure that Sly would be fun. As expected, it was an enjoyable experience.

The first game is Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus. We are introduces to Sly, Bentley, and Murray as they make a pretty solid team. They’ve been friends for many years and are known for stealing artifacts and having fun on vacations. Now, they’ve uncovered a lead onto the gang that took out Sly’s parents and stole the Thievius Raccoonus. The trio decides to recover the chapters from the respective gang members and take down the leader. It will be tough, as a special agent by the name of Carmelita Fox is hunting them and she won’t stop until Sly’s behind bars. Looks like Sly Cooper is in for a rough ride!

The first game’s gameplay is unique as the next two games go for a more traditional route. In this game, you have to avoid detection as you make it to the goal. One hit will essentially finish Sly off so you have to be careful about how you handle it. The stealth part is pretty interesting and it’s like playing as Spiderman Noir in Shattered Dimensions, but without all of the athletics and webbing. That’s not to say that Sly isn’t athletic though. You will have to use his skills to jump from place to place and hang on to a ledge when needed.

It is pretty novel gameplay, but I am glad that they ended up switching it. I believe that stealth works best when you have it for a few levels as opposed to the entire game. Having to re do an entire section because you were spotted can be pretty rough. The game was a solid start to the series and Clockwerk made for a powerful adversary. The story is good and the banter between Sly and Carmelita was in top form. The replay value for the game isn’t incredibly high, but getting the Platinum and finding all of the bottles/clues will take a little extra time.

The second game’s plot picks up from the first since someone has stolen the parts to Clockwerk. Sly remembers how dangerous that foe can be and the gang must quickly get ready so they can find the culprits and stop Clockwerk from being revived. Will they be able to do this? Meanwhile, a new face joins the police force by the name of Constable Neyla. Together with Carmelita…they may finally be able to take out the Cooper gang!

This is where the gameplay becomes finalized for the franchise. There is still a lot of stealth involved, but not as much since you can afford to just tackle your opponents. It’s not really advisable for large groups, but it’s still an option. Sly now has a health bar and it feels a lot like the original Jak game. No guns, it’s just classic hand to hand combat with some athletics. I’m a fan of the gameplay and it’s good to see how the series has progressed. Of course, I would love a laser gun, but it’s not completely necessary.

The third game takes place after a long time has passed since the previous installment. The gang has parted ways and things had been going slowly. Then Sly finds the ancient base of his ancestors and a villain by the name of Dr. M is heading there to get the treasure. Sly will need to bring his old partners back to the team while also recruiting a few new (and old) faces to help with the task. It’ll be the toughest mission yet, but Sly is ready! Carmelita isn’t far behind and she’s ready to take Sly down for the count.

This one experimented with a lot of concepts. We got to control a pirate ship and board other ships to steal a lot of money. This is great for when you need some money to buy everything in the shop. The gameplay could be a little on the tricky side for this mode, but it was pretty fun. There are also airplane battles, which are handled very well and car battles, which are just as exciting. You also get to play as the Panda King and shoot fireworks at the opponents. Dimitri gets his own level where you scuba dive and get to see some action. The Guru’s gameplay involves possessing the enemies and causing them to ram into something or get corralled somewhere.

Carmelita also gets her own gameplay where the game becomes a third person shooter. It’s naturally not as well developed as PN03 or Star Fox, but the gameplay is still fun. Beyond that, we still have the usual Bentley programming game and the Murray smashing part. Sly’s gameplay is also true to form and there is one boss fight that suddenly transforms the game into DBZ. You get to charge with immense speed at the boss and blows are exchanged. It was a very entertaining boss fight and maybe the best (Or top 3 anyway) in the trilogy.

Aside from the three games, we also have a few minigames. They weren’t very memorable and I only gave them a quick try so I could snag the trophies. (Well, I would have played them anyway, but only once a piece) They are relatively basic and you should have no trouble getting solid scores on them. They’re entertaining enough, but they don’t add to the replay value because you won’t really find yourself replaying them. One or two shots per game is typically enough to feel satisfied.

Sly is the protagonist of the Sly Collection and he’s actually pretty cool. See, he actually does flirt with Carmelita and some of the other characters, but he’s always classy about it. It’s more of a game to him and he never goes too far. It’s just light banter and both parties know it. So, instead of having a forced romance subplot or a James Bond character, we get a very interesting hero. He is a thief, but he (typically) only steals from those who have already stolen something. Calling him a hero may be a stretch, but he does bring many criminals to justice Batman style. He always has a few comebacks at the ready and he basically made the series. I can safely say that the trilogy wouldn’t have been half as good without him as the lead character.

He continues to improve throughout the trilogy and he’s essentially a master by the second game. He may have been a little nerfed in the third game since he couldn’t take out the giant mech, but it happens. I didn’t care for his decision at the end of the third game since it was almost a bit of a betrayal to his friends. One scene cannot negate a whole trilogy of solid acts so Sly is still one of the better protagonists in gaming. He’s an example of a romantic who doesn’t let it bog him down. The Cooper Gang is his creation and they shall go far.

Bentley is the tactical member of the group and he makes all of the plans. He gets a small subplot where he starts to get a little jealous of Sly, but luckily he snaps out of it in time so I won’t count it as a negative. His voice is catchy and it’s the most memorable part of his character. He does get into a romance, which was pretty unnecessary and not very enjoyable. It definitely helped to drop him and this occurred during the third game. (Along with Murray’s drop) His gadgets are interesting, but he’s not not a very intriguing character. He just doesn’t have any traits that make him stand out (apart from the voice) and he could easily be replaced with any other genius. Sly is definitely the one carrying the group as far as personality goes.

The Murray started out as a solid character for the first two games and then he went downhill fast. He’s the opposite of Sly in that he’s not very smart or cunning and he never has a good comeback at the ready. He makes up for this with his fists and he’s the power hitter of the group. (I would easily take Sly in a fight against him though) He likes to refer to himself as The Murray and that’s why I liked him a lot. Then, he decided to abandon his fighting methods thanks to The Guru and he started a lot of meditation. So, most of his lines in the third game were pretty annoying since he wasn’t a convincing pacifist and most of his “wise” sayings just weren’t funny. He has a classic rage moment at one point where he turns back into the original “The Murray” but it came a little too late. He still beats Daxter, but Murray definitely dropped as far as characters go.

Carmelita is Sly’s biggest rival and they always get to share a lot of epic dialogue. She makes sure that the police are in top shape and she has risen to a very high position. Her skills with a blaster are definitely worth mentioning and she’s able to take down the bosses that even gave Sly’s gang a tough time. I do miss the days when capturing Sly was her only goal, but the ending is happy for her. A little too much romance if you ask me though. It’ll be interesting to see what her role is in the next game. She’s definitely an integral part of the franchise and her rivalry with Sly is what makes the banter so much fun.

Dimitri is easily one of the more unlikable villains, but it seems like he was well received by the fans so he got to return for the third game. It’s too bad because I just don’t see why he is supposed to be cool. He spends some time flirting in the third game, which isn’t cool and his only good scene that I can recall is the fact that he didn’t succumb to Sly’s black mailing attempts. Beyond that, he’s just another enemy who turns into a hero and then forgets to have any significant character development. I’m hoping that he won’t return for the next game.

The Guru is easily one of the most annoying characters in the trilogy. The fact that he only makes sounds and then everyone can understand him is a trend that I really don’t like. (Just look at Bumblebee) This way, the characters get to say things like “Whoa, impressive thinking Guru” or “I like the way you think Guru” It’s a cop out because we don’t know what he is actually saying and I just can’t root for him. He’s supposed to be immensely hardcore based on the reactions from the characters, but I need to hear it to believe it. His subplot just wasn’t enlightening and he prolonged the game just so that he could be at one with nature. Yeah….that’s a no go for me.
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Penelope is one of the new members to join the gang in the third installment and she’s all right. She beats most of the other new recruits, but I couldn’t get myself to become a fan of hers. She’s also pretty smart and she has her remotely controlled vehicles, which makes for solid gameplay. That being said, I just can’t get behind the forced romance subplot between her and Bentley. It didn’t do wonders for any of them…that’s for sure.

The Panda King started out as one of the big villains in the first game. His boss fight was pretty fun and his flame attacks were brutal. He made for a solid villain and he was definitely one of the more memorable bosses. After that, he became a hero in the third game and changed his ways. That’s where he went downhill for me. His new meditation personality was too similar to Murray’s change and he just wasn’t believable. I have to agree with Sly that it’s a little hard to overlook his deeds from the original title. His mannerisms can also be a little tough and you just wait for his scenes to be over. In the end, I’m definitely not a fan of him anymore.

Clockwerk is the big boss from the first game and he shouldn’t be underestimated. The Cooper Clan has feared him for many generations and that’s because of his overwhelming power. The boss fight was pretty interesting and it was fun to test my metal (get it?) against his. His character is solid and he kind of reminded me of Unicron. Maybe it’s just his commanding demeanor, but he’s a solid villain and easily one of the most memorable ones in the franchise. It would be no stretch of the imagination to say that he is my favorite villain in the franchise and it will be reasonably difficult to pass him.

Muggshot is an example of a hardcore villain who stayed as a villain. He appears in the third game and I believe that he was in the original as well. He’s pretty hardcore and we get to witness a battle between him and Carmelita. He has a lot of muscle power while Carmelita is good from long range. I have to admire his raw power and there aren’t many fighters who could take him down for the count. He’s not an amazing villain, but he’s good enough and he has no annoying gimicks. He just works to pound his opponents with simple (yet effective) brute strength. That’s my kind of villain.

Constable Neyla is the new face on the police staff and she’s the only one to get any development aside from Carmelita. I can’t say that she’s very likable because she’s the reasonable, heroic officer. She doesn’t mind teaming up with Sly if it means that they will nab the culprit and she’s just not as fun as Carmelita. Her fighting skills aren’t quite up to par either and you have to wonder why she didn’t just grow up to be a nameless officer like the others. She also seems to be tricking Carmelita…could she have a secret agenda?

The Contessa is one of the bosses in the second game and she’s mainly memorable because she’s involved in a rather large (but expected) plot twist. She’s pretty crafty and she can also engage in classic fisticuffs when necessary. Her design was interesting and the boss fight was pretty good. There’s not much more to say about her, but the Contessa isn’t someone that you want to mess with. Her hypnotic machinery can be powerful and she takes no prisoners.

General Tsao isn’t a likable villain by any stretch of the imagination, but I really did like his boss battle so he deserved a mention. Dueling with him in the forest was good, but the battle on top of the forest was in a completely different league. That’s a battle that I won’t forget and the developers definitely had fun implementing the new gameplay. Personality wise, this guy definitely didn’t rank. He was likely a one shot character so I don’t need to worry about him appearing again.

Doctor M is the big villain from the third game, but he’s easily the most dull compared to the previous two final bosses. He just comes out of nowhere and I have to say that the evil scientist character is really getting old at this point. No…it is already old! He does have a mech to help him out, but the boss fight isn’t terribly fun and trying to finish it in a short time can be brutal. (But worth the trophy) I really could have done without him and he didn’t add anything to the franchise.

It’s also fun to see how the graphics have changed from game to game. The first game is very bright and definitely more cartoony than the other two. I actually think that it looked the best from the three and it’s just fun to look at. The second installment gets a little darker, but you can also see how much newer it is. The third one is basically as modern as it will get and the character models look solid. The graphics are technically “better” I suppose, but the first game still looks the best to me. I just won’t be forgetting that art style!

One bonus that occurs from older games getting to the PS3 is that we can get trophy support! The trophies for all three games are very reasonable and I obtained all three Platinums. I have to say that I’m pretty proud of this and the developers did a solid job. Some may say that the Platinums were too easy, but they were tough enough to present you with a mild challenge during the third game. The minigames also contain trophies, but no Platinum comes along with them. Ah well, you can’t win em all. Either way, this could be another incentive to buy the collection. Who doesn’t want to add three more Platinums to the collection?

The soundtrack for all three games is a little on the generic side. Sly’s main theme from the first game is pretty memorable, but that’s about it. Ratchet and Clank typically doesn’t have a lot of memorable tracks either so it may just be a company thing. (Although Jak’s was pretty solid) It could be argued that I was so into the game at that point that I couldn’t hear the music, but I’m sure that I would have remembered a dynamic boss theme. Well, at least the music isn’t bad.

I do have to say that the ending to the third game isn’t that good. One can definitely see how it didn’t get a sequel for so long, but it really feels like Sly gave his teammates the short end of the stick. It’s almost a tragic ending if you didn’t believe their happy stories at the end. I definitely wasn’t satisfied with such a conclusion, which is why I can’t wait for the next one. The Cooper Gang must never be allowed to split up!

The big question is…could the Sly series defeat Jak or Ratchet and Clank? Well, I would still take both of those series over this one, but they’re a little more out there and the guns advantage almost makes it unfair. Ratchet is the best main character from the three, but Sly’s partners beat the counterparts from the other series. It’s fun to compare the three series and it does appear that Sly has outlasted Jak. Maybe it’ll end up giving Ratchet and Clank a run for their money eventually. (The film is coming out soon for both series after all. Can’t wait to see them compete!)
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Overall, this was a fun trilogy and it holds up well against the famous Mario Galaxy series. Completing all three games and getting the Platinum definitely means that you are getting a lot of value for your purchase. Replay value is not an issue and you’ll be glad that you purchased the game. The graphics are good and the banter between Sly and Carmelita can be pretty awesome. The rest of the dialogue is typically well done as well and the writers must have been very focused when working on it. The levels can get a little repetitive in the second and third games, but it’s really not bad and nothing compared to the DS Prince of Persia game. Bentley’s levels are scarce, but I love the Pac Man/Galaga levels where you have to destroy the viruses. The first game allows you to free roam through the levels and the third one has a lot of challenges that are fun since it is basically a way to replay any minigame or stage. Fans of the platforming genre should greatly enjoy the game and the writing is superb as well. All in all, you can’t help but give the collection a thumbs up!

Overall 7/10